Foundation for Male Studies

  • Discoveries are sometimes serendipitous. At other times, they build on observation and experience. The discovery of penicillin is among the first, and the discovery of Covid-19 is among the latter. The Moderna vaccine for Covid was produced over a weekend, building on 20 years of research.

    I have lived long enough, and I have been a doctor long enough to see both the serendipity and the painstaking observation that brings discovery. Starting in 1967, as an obstetrician, I delivered hundreds of babies, and saw enough depressed mothers to know that postpartum depression (PPD) was both real and devastating. Mothers who had an aversion to their babies, or worse, wanted to kill them or themselves.

    Then as a psychiatrist (1969 through today), I gradually saw that PPD was peripartum depression -- happening before, during, and after the pregnancy. Moving along, I developed an intense interest in the emotional lives of men, after I discovered I myself was a man in the process of, and aftermath of a divorce. I discovered male depression, and created the Foundation for Male Studies, to support investigation into the unique ways men experience depression and distress.

    All this, while I have still not pieced together what happened to me with my first child, and the subsequent complete estrangement from both my children after my divorce. As my wife read Why I Hate Pregnancy, Only now, I can see I was distraught, and my gross acting out of my own distress, was in connection with my wife's depression.

    I 'discovered' this in the last ten years, with the discovery of literature about PPD in men (it always intrigues me to have something 'discovered' that was always there -- i.e. America, PPD).

    It turns out that if one of the other partner in a pregnancy is depressed, there is a 50% chance that the partner will be affected, and beyond that, the disturbance in the other partner leads to disturbance, depression, or other disorders in children, in both the near term as adolescents.

    43 years and two specialties later, I am able to piece it together: PPD mother, PPD father = emotional disturbance in the children. It happened to me without my awareness, and without a single professional in my life, having any awareness, insight or extension of a helping hand. The professions were essentially blind to the larger picture to the connectedness of the father/mother/child complex.

    With luck, invention follows discovery. In this case, awareness of the facts of disturbance, PPD male, or PPD female, and the aftermath, allowed for the invention of a new model.

    The standard initial questionnaire of the ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology), almost misses the mother's affective life, and  completely misses that of the father, and does not create a pathway for pediatric follow up. Here we have a perfect storm of growing evidence and experience across three specialties (Obstetrics/Psychiatry/Pediatrics) that can create a new paradigm of evaluation and treatment that is holistic - female, male, infant, are one entity from the threshold event of pregnancy throughout the subsequent years of child development.

    Could I have been helped? My wife and children saved? I don't know. But I do know that the distortions were felt as personal failures, and induced guilt and shame, when they should have been seen as treatable conditions.

    My wife is still depressed, my children are lost to me, and my consolation is to create a new way to evaluate and understand these difficult situations. My hope is that with a new standard of care, and new treatment interventions, lives will be saved, now and in the future -- here and around the world.

    Edward M. Stephens, MD

    PS: That this is a gleaming, unsolved, unacknowledged medical condition is evidenced by my conversations with many 30-year veterans of both Ob/gyn and Psychiatry, and have gotten the response,  "I didn't know there was such a thing."